Just over four years ago, our team at LifeWay launched The Gospel Project to serve churches with a theologically robust and Christ-centered curriculum for kids, students and adults. I asked Trevin Wax to spearhead the alignment of the studies across all ages and to select team members to run the project to completion. By God’s grace, well over one million people use The Gospel Project each week now, but because we were launching something entirely new, we initially struggled to build buy-in with some on our own team. One day early on, Trevin sat down with a designer to present the vision for the curriculum. After Trevin’s passionate pitch, the designer responded, “This (Bible studies) is not something I am overly passionate about, but I will do a professional job.”
We did not want dispassionate people touching something we viewed as deeply sacred and transformational. We did not want people who approached the launch as “just another thing” anywhere near what, for us, flowed from a place of deep conviction. So we found another designer. And in time the initial designer self-selected off our team completely.
Passion trumps professionalism. Always. Every single time. Can we be both professional and passionate? Absolutely. But being professional must never trump passion. Here are three reasons passion is greater than professionalism:
1. The team needs passion more.
Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” The world does not need more professionals. The world needs people who have come alive, and so does the ministry/leadership team. A team rich in professionalism and poor in passion never reaches its potential. The team is helped by passionate people and harmed by those whose hearts are not engaged. Every person adds to or subtracts from the collective passion of a team.
2. Passion is more contagious.
John Wesley is known for saying, “Light yourself on fire with passion and people will come from miles to watch you burn.” The quote, whether he said it or not, resonates with people because we have all been influenced and inspired by passionate people. We know what it means to follow a passionate leader and a dispassionate one. We know the difference in watching a passionate ball player and one who does not seem to care. We sense the passion of a server who joyfully describes the main course and know the difference from the one who seems to be going through the motions. We recognize a musician or artist who is pouring himself/herself into the craft versus one who is playing for a check. Passion grabs us much more than professionalism.
3. Passion perseveres longer than professionalism.
Whenever a team attempts anything of significance, there will be trials, pain and disappointment. Those passionate for the mission are those who persevere through challenges and difficulties. Professionals without passion will look for another assignment where they can leverage their skills without applying their hearts to the work.